Partner’s John Insall, a Licensed Environmental Professional (LEP), was recently interviewed by NPR for a three-piece series about toxic PCBs in schools, which was published in print and featured during on-air programming. Insall discusses the disconnect between the lack of regulations that require testing building materials for PCBs and the onerous Federal regulations to remediate PCBs if they are found (40 CFR Part 761.61 and 40 CFR Part 761.62)(TSCA).
In the interview, Insall explains that the decision whether to test for PCBs is up to the property owner: “Being that there’s no requirement to test for it, it creates kind of an odd situation for the commercial real estate market, because a lot of building owners don’t want to test for it — because they don’t want to know.”
“However, if they don’t test, and PCBs are found later, they could be liable for additional costs.” Because of the potential health risk posed by PCB, particularly for sensitive receptors such as children, this has become a complex emerging issue that the commercial real estate market, school systems, and the EPA are struggling with. Many property owners avoid the risk of liability by not testing paint, caulk, and other materials for PCBs, yet risk significant liability in doing so.
If PCBs are found after a transaction has closed, the discovery can have dire implications. Budgets, schedules, and asset values can be dramatically impacted if PCB remediation is required. PCBs in caulk and building materials can also contaminate indoor air and surfaces. PCBs are a known carcinogen and heavily regulated by the EPA and states across the country.